The Legal Beat
Elite Law School Announces Exciting Expansion Of Support For Public Interest Work
Posted on Thursday November 15, 2018
With more and more students entering law school as part of the Trump Bump, we see that wannabe lawyers are increasingly interested in careers outside of Biglaw. Towards that end, one elite law school — that already does well placing students in Biglaw jobs — is making strides to improves its public interest programs.
Today Columbia Law School announced that they are investing an additional $4.5 million over the next three years to better enable students to embark on career in public interest after graduation. The biggest improvement will be to the school’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). This program is one of the few in the country that is institutionally funded, as opposed to the majority which depend on the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. That means whatever Twitter tirade the president goes on won’t impact the program. In these tumultuous times it must bring a sense of relief to Columbia Law students in the program that their money isn’t in danger of being taken away.
The LRAP is being enhanced in three key ways:
- New Public Service Bridge Loan — students in the program will have access to up to $10,000 in forgivable loans to assist with bar exam expenses.
- Increasing the income threshold — the annual gross income threshold (program participants that make less that the threshold are not expected to contribute will be increased) will be bumped up from $50,000 to $55,000. This means an extra $1,725 for most people in the program.
- Dependent allowance — participants with dependent children will be able to deduct $10,000 per child when calculating their gross income. That means up to an additional $3,450 per kid for participants.
In addition the school is beginning a new Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program, housed within the school’s office of Social Justice Initiatives, and they be appointing a program shortly. They are also making more money available for guaranteed summer funding, in a three-year, tiered increase.
Support for these changes comes from the top of the law school. Columbia Law School Dean Gillian Lester had this to say about the new program:
“Columbia Law School has a strong tradition of educating and mentoring graduates who will go on to serve the community, and these enhancements now position us as the premier destination for law students eager to pursue public interest and government careers. Making this work possible and emphasizing its importance is core to our mission and, perhaps today more than ever, critical for the health and vitality of our nation’s most important institutions.”
Kudos to Columbia for increasing their support of public interest work.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).